Regardless, for those around my age but especially those younger than me, there seems to be a common thread: many of us have gone through a period of time in which we began to believe that America is an evil country whose only purpose was to pillage and plunder our way into prosperity.
Many of us bought into the lie that America is responsible for all that is wrong in the world. We accepted the notion that America is systemically racist and full of greedy capitalists. I realize this feeling has always been present in American history, but it is undeniably more present among younger generations now, especially with the dawn of social media.
Those thoughts about the evils of America began for me around 2015 when Donald Trump entered the Presidential race and became a frontrunner for the 2016 election. I quickly joined the #nevertrump team, and I simply could not understand why scores of Christians would support a man like him.
Christian support of Trump was the final straw for me that nearly set me down a path to team woke. I began to see America like Israel would have seen Babylon – as an evil empire oppressing the masses through the delusion of freedom. I began down the road of becoming a “progressive,” fully believing that America needed a revolution.
Two things prevented me from going full on progressive in my politics: theology and history. There was always a tension between what I believed theologically and what I believed politically. My theology would only let me go so far politically. What I began to see is that theology and politics are intertwined in a way that cannot be fully separated.
For instance, my Christian beliefs about an unborn life inform my political views about abortion. How could I embrace a progressive view of politics while holding to a Christian ethic of life? The same is true for homosexual marriage. I could not embrace a progressive view that essentially erases marriage while also believing that God ordained marriage to be a union between one man and one woman.
Those are just two examples, but the list could certainly be much longer. As my theology prevented me from embracing a progressive view of politics, history was the second step that pulled me back from the brink of progressivism.
My brother and I would often exchange heated text messages about politics, Trump, racism, etc. He was staunchly opposed to my views, and it was evident that he loved America much more than I did at the time. It took some convincing, but he finally got me to listen to a few podcasts about current affairs. In addition, he told me about a line of thinking within the African American community that rejected the current narrative of racism and oppression in America.
That included people like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, Shelby Steele, and many, many more. As my understanding of America expanded outside my Twitter feed, I began to see the shining light of American greatness.
Then I enrolled in an American History class through Hillsdale College. I fully admit that my understanding of American history was sorely lacking. In middle school and high school I was much more interested in girls and P.E. class than I was about learning history. However, this class through Hillsdale began to shape my understanding of America into what it should be, which is the greatest place that has ever existed in the history of the world.
That doesn’t mean America is perfect, but it does mean that through all her faults and failures, this country is exceptional. Currently I am taking another course with Hillsdale titled: “Constitution 101: The Meaning and History of the Constitution.” This class is just as good as the first one, and it has given me further evidence that America is not the awful, racist, and evil place many would like you to believe.
I found in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that our country is exceptional and that no other document exists under which human freedom has flourished so wonderfully. Yes, it took time, a Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement for that to be extended to everyone, but those two documents stand as a promissory note of the eventual freedom of all people. Do I wish it would have been true from the date of signing? Of course I do, but I can’t change history.
Theology and history have a way of forcing you to deal with both the past and the future. My theology would not allow me to move forward with progressivism, while history forced me to deal with the past in such a way that helped me see the cliff progressivism is headed toward.
What is it I’d like younger millennials to know?
As much as I wish theology and politics were not intertwined, they are very closely linked together. Here is what you must know though: what you believe about theology and the Bible will inform your politics. You cannot avoid that reality. The problem for most younger millennials is that the process of understanding theology and history is often played in reverse. Too many younger Christians decide what they believe about politics and history before they decide what they believe about theology and the Bible.
If you buy into the current secular worldview, then your theology will eventually follow closely behind. You will eventually buy into the idea that America is Babylon. This is a dangerous road that will wreck your theology and destroy what you believe about everything. This is why we have seen many Christian artists beginning to deconstruct their faith and walk away from orthodox Christianity.
The same history many younger Americans have bought into about our own history is also true for what is often believed about the church. Many younger Christians see the church as equally oppressive. This is also a false understanding of church history and evangelicalism in general. The truth is that if your theology and your church reflects the values of the current secular world, then it’s time to pause and evaluate your theology.
Here’s a good diagnostic question: does what you believe about the Bible reflect worldly values more than it does what your parents or grandparents probably believe? If you can answer that in the affirmative, then it’s likely that you’ve already embraced a secular worldview and have begun to filter your theology through the world rather than the world through your theology. All I’m asking of my younger millennial and Generation Z friends is that you consider your theological beliefs before you jump ship and embrace worldly values.
I’d also ask of my younger friends that you consider American history.
I recently watched the documentary on the life of Clarence Thomas. It’s an exceptional documentary, and I highly recommend it. It opened my eyes to a much bigger understanding of America. I’m also disturbed that Amazon removed it from its streaming service during Black History Month (perhaps because it doesn’t fit the woke narrative?). Clarence Thomas grew up in the south under very difficult circumstances where racism was the norm and dire poverty was surely his future. Thomas beat the odds and became the first African American to sit on the Supreme Court.
Thomas went down that path of thinking America was an awful, evil empire. As his views began to change and as he understood more about America’s founding documents, he said, “The principles of this country are worth dying for.” Further, he said, “I was looking for a way of thinking, a set of ideals that fundamentally at its core said slavery is wrong…which natural law, of course, does.”
Thomas found what he was looking for, and he didn’t find it in revolutionary ideas. He found it in the Declaration of Independence which boldly states, “All men are created equal…they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.” This is natural law in its most basic form, and it forms the foundation for why America had to end slavery and extend these rights to every single person on American soil.
These are complicated issues that need a great deal of understanding, but it must be understood that the foundational documents of American history are what paved the way toward freedom and equality for all people. Was that path easy and filled with warm fuzzy feelings of freedom? Of course not. Nobody is denying that. However, anyone can look back into history and realize that the freedom every single American enjoys today is rooted in our past, no matter how difficult that past may be. America was the revolution the world needed.
The reality is that there are no perfect countries. World history is unfortunately a history of conquest. There is not a country on earth that did everything right, but there is only one country on earth that is founded upon the right ideals that have led to the greatest amount of prosperity and freedom in the world for all people. That country is America, and I am proud of this exceptionally great country.
It is because of my understanding of our history that I refuse to accept the idea that America is an awful and racist country.
Again, I would ask of my younger friends, if you buy the idea that America is awful, then at the very least do what I did. Take an American history class with Hillsdale College. These are free classes that you can take on your own time. If you are going to charge forward with the woke view of America, at least take a pause and reconsider before moving another inch forward.
This does not mean that every Christian will agree on every matter of politics, history, and policy. There is a wide range of disagreements Christians can have about all of these matters. However, there is a limit to everything, and my theology was the blockade that prevented me from going any further down this road of progressive/woke ideas.
It’s taken me the better chunk of the last two years studying history to come to a place where I see that America is the greatest place on earth, and as Clarence Thomas said, “The principles of this country are worth dying for.” I believe that, too. If you’re headed down a different path, then I encourage you to pause and reconsider. It may just be that the freedom you think exists out there somewhere in a utopian vision of the world already exists right in front of you. It’s called America.
God bless America!
Pastor, First Baptist Church
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